7 and 14 day EcoQuest Experience

South Africa

This programme is for people who want an in-depth wildlife and bush experience, but don't have a long time to spare. You are based in camps in prime wildlife areas, and will take wilderness walks or game drives twice a day with experienced and professional guides and trackers.

If you are an adventurous spirit wanting to gain a greater understanding of nature and the environment, while experiencing the excitement of the bush, then the EcoQuest Experience is definitely for you. The programme is also ideal if you are a student testing the waters for a career in the wildlife field, or if you just want a more in-depth safari holiday in some of South Africa's best wilderness areas.

In addition to being immersed in nature, living in an unfenced wilderness camp, you will also learn how to drive a 4x4 vehicle, identify birds, plants, trees and tracks, and how to track animals. You could experience two different game reserves, exposing you to a wide diversity of habitats and species. 

This programme is available at two amazing private game reserves in South Africa; one is a concession in the Kruger National Park and the other a private reserve south west of Kruger, home to strong populations of cheetah and leopard. You can also choose to experience the project in Botswana, in the remote and beautiful Tuli wilderness.

Quick Facts

Who can join: Anyone aged 16 years and over
How long is the programme: 7 or 14 days
Accommodation: Tent shared between two people (same sex). Single supplements available.
Transfer time: Varies depending on location
Pick up from: Johannesburg
Meals: 3 meals a day included
Course numbers: Up to 20
Start dates: Various from April - December
How much: from ZAR 14,500 (around US $1,095)

WHY CHOOSE THIS PROGRAMME?

If you only have a short time available, this programme will enable you to learn more about the African bush and the richness of the natural world. Experience the daily life of a safari guide and get a hands-on feel for Africa's iconic wildlife.

About the Programme

The EcoQuest programme (7 or 14 days) is designed to provide a short but in-depth ecological learning experience. It incorporates certain aspects of the 28-day Safari Guide course and is aimed at those who are looking for more a more immersive wildlife and nature experience, but do not have the time to take four weeks away from their daily obligations.

The programme consists of two components. The first is learning about the fascinating elements of nature and how each are carefully interconnected in a specific region. The second part is experiencing some aspects of typical safari guide training such as 4x4 driving, good guiding techniques and animal identification.

  • Gain a greater understanding of nature and the environment, whilst experiencing the excitement of the bush
  • Practical instruction in how to drive a 4x4 vehicle, identify common birds, plants, trees, tracks and how to track large and small game
  • Learn about the infinite variety of living organisms that exist in nature
  • Study the behaviour, interaction and identification of the small creatures and birds in our ecosystems
  • Understand the underlying elements that support such a variety of life, such as geology, soils, plants and climate 
  • Learn to identify the habits and behaviour of the larger charismatic wild animals that roam Africa's wilderness areas.

What sort of things will I be doing?

You will study the following topics and cover basic skills in guiding, plus learn about the wildlife which surrounds you:

- Navigation and orientation
- Ecology
- Geology and soils
- Animal tracks and tracking
- Bird identification and behaviour
- Animal behaviour
- Astronomy
- Amphibians and reptiles
- Orientation and navigation
- Bush skills
- Common trees and shrubs and their traditional uses
- Using binoculars correctly and positioning for photography.
- Night drives and nocturnal animals

You will be based in camps in prime wildlife areas, and partake in wilderness walks or game drives twice a day. You could be trained in two different game reserves, exposing you to a diversity of habitats and species. No other programme will match this variety of training environments or the frequency of practical activities.

Participants of any age over 16, who are able to walk more than 2km, are encouraged to enrol.

Base 1 - North Kruger

Where will I be based?

On this course you will be based in a 24,000 ha / 59,300 acre private concession located in the Pafuri area of the northern Kruger National Park. Situated between the Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers, the concession is the most diverse and scenically attractive areas in all of Kruger. The concession where you will be based is not accessible to the general public visiting Kruger and in fact belongs to the local community.

Features

The area is the wildest and most remote part of the Kruger National Park and offers varied vegetation, great wildlife viewing, the best birding in all of the Park and is filled with folklore of the early explorers and ancient civilisations. Scenery ranges from the beautiful, quietly-flowing Luvuvhu River shaded by Nyala trees and fever tree forests, teeming with hippos and crocodiles; to the awesome Lanner Gorge, palm-fringed wetlands and rocky outcrops with thousand-year-old baobab trees.

Wildlife

All the wildlife that one would expect to see in a great national park such as Kruger can be encountered on the concession: plains game such as zebra, kudu and impala, lions and leopards are a special sighting, herds of elephant, African buffalo, nyala antelope in abundance and also seldom-seen animals such as eland and bushpig. There is also abundant birdlife and this part of Kruger is known to be one of the best birding areas in the park, home to rarely-seen species such as Pel's Fishing Owl, Wattle-eyed Flycatcher and Grey-headed Parrot.

Temperature and weather

In this part of the Kruger National Park you'll find a subtropical climate, with hot summers (average 36˚C) and warm, dry winters (average minimum 9˚C and average maximum 26.˚C). However, be sure not to be caught out by the intermittent summer rains which fall between October and March. Early mornings and late afternoon/evenings during the winter do get very cold, so be sure to bring sufficient warm clothing for early morning drives such as woolly hat, scarf and long trousers - think layers!

Accommodation

Students are accommodated in nine comfortable thatched, tented units placed on wooden decks in the shade of large nyala trees. Each unit has an en-suite bathroom consisting of a shower, washbasin with hot running water and a flush toilet, plus a verandah overlooking the bush. We provide bedding (a duvet and a pillow), but you might want to bring an extra blanket for the winter months and an additional pillow if you require two.

The camp is not fenced which means that animals do move through from time to time.

Communal areas

This area consists of a thatch-roofed open sided deck where all meals, lectures and studying takes place. A clearing for evening camp fire creates an idyllic setting for social and leisure time.

Course dates 2017 - 2018:

The 2017 / 2018 programme start dates are:

7 day programmes:

9 July-15 July 2017 
30 September-6 October 2017
19 March-25 March 2018 
14 November - 20 November 2018
22 November - 28 November 2018

14 day programmes:

26 August-8 September 2017 (South West of Kruger & North Kruger)
10 December-23 December 2017 (South West of Kruger & North Kruger)
18 August-31 August 2018 (North Kruger & South West of Kruger)
1 November-14 November 2018 (Tuli & North Kruger)

Alternatively, there is a 28-day Safari Guide Course run from this location, plus the accredited 55-day Field Guide Course. If nothing suits your dates, please enquire and we will do our best to find you an alternative placement!

Base 2 - South West of Kruger

Where will I be based?

This camp is on the banks of the Karongwe River (mostly a dry river bed) in a 9,000 hectare (22,239 acre) game reserve, to the south-west of the Kruger National Park. Through the reserve flow three rivers which are tributaries of the Olifants River, carving their way through the bedrock and dividing the reserve.

Features

This reserve has undulating hills and valleys and broad-leafed woodland. The vegetation of the reserve falls within the Savannah Biome of southern Africa with distinct vegetation zones being represented – mixed Lowveld and Mopane bushveld along with grass savannah, riverine vegetation and rocky outcrops. You will traverse over most of the reserve, except for one small section in the northern part.

Wildlife

This base is a good place for viewing leopard, lion and cheetah as well as elephant. As the camp itself is unfenced, you will frequently have four-legged guests in the camp. Hyenas make nightly patrols nearby and elephant, cheetah and lion have also made appearances on occasion. There is abundant wildlife in the area, with over 60 different large mammal species.

Temperature and weather

Summers are warm to hot, with temperatures ranging from mid 20°C on the cooler cloud-covered rainy days, to the high 30°C on average days. Occasional hot day’s temperatures can exceed 40°C. Winters are usually dry, with the average morning temperature of 6°C, with occasional cooler morning temperatures; afternoon temperatures average in the mid 20s°C to 32°C expected. Occasional winter showers prevail, but are unusual. Rain in the summer takes the form of heavy thunder-showers, or frontal rainfall over a longer period of time.

Accommodation

The camp consists of 10 walk-in style Meru tents, with twin beds (students share tents) and supplied bedding (a duvet and one pillow); although you might want to bring an extra blanket for the winter months and an additional pillow should you require two. There are shared ablution facilities and a central communal area. There are viewing decks in the central area of the camp, and many students choose to make the viewing decks their “bedroom” for part of or for the full duration of the course. The camp itself is unfenced.

The Communal Area

This area is made up of four tall thatch-roofed open-sided decks, which form a square that encloses an open campfire area. One of the deck structures serves as the open air dining area, lecture room and study area. Two decks remain open to welcome the adventurous who want to spend their nights as close to nature as possible, while the last deck is the home of the head instructor.

Course dates 2017-2018:

The 2017 / 2018 programme start dates are:

7 day programmes:

20 August-26 August 2017
29 October-4 November 2018
10 December-16 December

14 day programmes:

26 August-8 September 2017 (South West of Kruger & North Kruger)
10 December-23 December 2017 (South West of Kruger & North Kruger)
16 July-29 July 2018 (South West of Kruger)
18 August-31 August 2018 (North Kruger & South West of Kruger)

Alternatively, there is a 28-day Safari Guide Course run from this location, plus the accredited 55-day Field Guide Course. If nothing suits your dates, please enquire and we will do our best to find you an alternative placement!

Base 3 - Botswana

Where will I be based?

You will be based in the Land of Giants, in the Tuli Game Reserve, located at the confluence of the Limpopo and the Shashe Rivers, in the easternmost corner of Botswana. The Northern Tuli Game Reserve is the collective name for several privately owned game reserves, including the Mashatu, Ntani and Tuli reserves, covering all the land north of the Limpopo River.

Features

Tuli forms a key part of the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty, with majestic rocks, diverse vegetation, abundant wildlife, a profusion of birds and a rich archaeological heritage, and spans more than 25 000 ha of pure unadulterated wilderness, the perfect place to reconnect with nature.

Wildlife

Besides elephant, lion, cheetah, leopard and hyena, general game such as giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, eland and a variety of antelope, and nocturnal species such as the springhare, bat-eared fox, civet cat, genet, honey badger and mongoose, are prevalent throughout the reserve. You will do night drives and, with the aid of spot lights, the bush will come to life.

The birdlife is prolific, with the game reserve recording at least 366 different species.

Temperature and weather

In this part of Botswana you'll find a subtropical climate, with hot summers (average 36˚C) and warm, dry winters (average minimum 9˚C and average maximum 22˚C). However, be sure not to be caught out by the intermittent summer rains which fall between October and March. Early mornings and late afternoon/evenings during the winter do get cold, so be sure to bring sufficient warm clothing for early morning drives such as woolly hat, scarf and long trousers - think layers!

Accommodation

The camp consists of 10 simple dome tents, each with two mattresses and pillows (two students per tent). Please bring along your sleeping bag and an extra blanket/pillow if required. There are shared bathroom facilities, and a central communal area overlooking the river bed.

Course dates 2017 - 2018:

The 2017 / 2018 dates for the Safari Guide course at this location are:

1st November 2018 - 14th November 2018

If nothing suits your dates, please enquire and we will do our best to find you an alternative placement!

Details

Do I need any experience to join the programme?

You do not need any prior wildlife experience to join the programme, but students will find it easier if they have a good grasp of English. All participants should have a keen interest in conservation.

You must also be over 16 years old and able to walk at least 2km. There is a lot of foot-based walking and hiking on this programme.

How do I get to the project?

If you are arriving into South Africa by air, please fly into O.R. Tambo Airport in Johannesburg. From there you are welcome to take advantage of the transfer bus laid on by the project, which goes to all three of the South African reserves and to Botswana. Please enquire for times and prices. Should you arrive into Johannesburg before your start date and wish to take advantage of the bus, you will need to return to a backpackers / guest house close to the airport to meet the transfer.

General details about the camps:

- Electricity

There is no electricity at any of the camps – paraffin and solar lamps are used for all lighting, and a generator is used to charge camera batteries and other essential electricals. A headlamp is recommended and please bring an extra battery or two!

The kitchen is equipped with gas fridges for storage of all perishable food items. Fresh drinking water, cordial and teas and coffees are freely available and the camps also sell a selection of affordable fizzy drinks (cash only).

The generators are for camp use and will not be switched on for the sole purpose of charging cameras or other equipment.

- Laundry

A hand washing laundry service is provided at a nominal weekly fee. Students are asked to please wash their own underwear.

- Staff in Camp

For the duration of your stay, there will usually be a head instructor, assistant instructor and camp coordinator, plus kitchen and cleaning staff.

- Communications

There is no wifi and limited cell phone coverage at any of the camps. Please let your friends and family back home know that communication will be sporadic.

Pricing and Dates

When can I volunteer?

The 2017 / 2018 programme start dates are:

7 day programmes:

20 August - 26 August 2017 (South West of Kruger)

30 September - 6 October 2017 (North Kruger)

19 March - 25 March 2018 (North Kruger)

2 July - 6 July 2018 (South West of Kruger) - Family EcoQuest

29 October - 4 November 2018 (South West of Kruger)

14 November - 20 November 2018 (North Kruger)

22 November - 28 November 2018 (North Kruger)

10 December - 16 December 2018 (South West of Kruger)

14 day programmes:

26 August - 8 September 2017 (South West of Kruger & North Kruger)

10 December - 23 December 2017 (South West of Kruger & North Kruger)

16 July - 29 July 2018 (South West of Kruger)

18 August - 31 August 2018 (North Kruger & South West of Kruger)

1 November - 14 November 2018 (Tuli & North Kruger)

If these dates are not convenient, there is a 28-day Safari Guide Course run from these locations, plus the accredited 55-day Field Guide Course.

If you cannot find a course which suits your available dates, please enquire and we will do our best to find you an alternative placement!

2017 / 2018 Pricing:

7 day EcoQuest Course: ZAR 14,500 (around US $1,095) / ZAR 16,500 (around US $1,245)
14 day EcoQuest Guide Course: ZAR 25,700 (around US $1,925) / ZAR 28,100 (around US $2,095)

What's included in the price:

  • Full board and lodging for the duration of your programme including laundry (exc. alcoholic and fizzy drinks)
  • Instructors and Training
  • Bush walks and drives
  • T-shirt, shirt and cap
  • Practical instruction on wildlife and plant identification as well as spoors, tracking and
  • animal behaviour
  • All course-related transport and equipment required to do your work
  • 24 hour support from the course leaders

The price does not include:

  • Flights
  • Visa fees
  • Personal expenses such as souvenirs, drinks, snacks etc
  • Pre-programme accommodation (if required)
  • Transfers from Johannesburg to the project location (using the project bus or your own vehicle)

Project Gallery - 7 and 14 day EcoQuest Experience

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